Since each team in baseball has recently reached and surpassed the 40-game mark, we're roughly at the quarter pole -- i.e., we've played 25 percent of the 2013 season, or thereabouts.
So in recognition of this solemn and weighty occasion, I've contrived an excuse to hand out fake awards. Call them "The 25 Percent Awards" for 2013. And please do capitalize the spelling, so as to impart significance.
In other words, if the 2013 season were to end right now, at the one-quarter mark (which would suck, by the way), who would deserve to hoist the individual trophies, plaques and Franklin Mint commemorative porcelain ware? The opinions to follow, it should be noted, are mine and mine alone, objectively correct though they may be.
As of this writing, Choo, the Reds' leadoff hitter, boasts a .463 OBP, which is good for second in the NL. As well, he's slugging .563 and on pace for 74 extra-base hits. Choo has also swiped five bags in six attempts, and, while he's not a defensive asset at his new position of center field, he is putting up these potent numbers while manning an up-the-middle position. Additionally, Choo has missed only one game thus far in 2013.
Also worth mentioning: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Buster Posey, Giants; Jean Segura, Brewers; Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; Justin Upton, Braves; David Wright, Mets
25-percent AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
As my colleague Matt Snyder recently noted, Cabrera is actually having a better season this year than he did in his MVP campaign of 2012 (provided he keeps this up, of course). At present, Cabrera is batting .373/.443/.598, and he leads the majors in hits and total bases. Additionally, Cabrera paces the AL in OBP and ranks second in SLG. No, Cabrera still isn't a quality defender at third base, but he is playing a semi-premium position.
At this point I should note that I don't care about a team's place in the standings when it comes to the MVP Award. It's an individual award, and, unlike in football and basketball, a player's possible contributions to the team in baseball are structurally limited. I'm not going to penalize/reward a player because of the quality of the talent surrounding him.
25-percent NL Cy Young: Matt Harvey, Mets
The Mets' ballyhooed youngster paces the NL in WAR, WHIP and average game score and ranks near the top of the league in K%, K/BB ratio, strikeouts, ERA, ERA+, HR rate, quality-start percentage and innings pitched. In other words, in terms of doing the things an ace is supposed to do, Harvey has it all covered so far.
Also worth mentioning: A.J. Burnett, Pirates; Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Shelby Miller, Cardinals; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Travis Wood, Cubs; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
In essence, this one's a coin flip between King Felix and Boston's Clay Buchholz. Even after Hernandez's disappointing start in Cleveland on Sunday, I give him the close nod. That's for two primary reasons: one, Hernandez has done a better job at those aspects of the job most under his control (i.e., missing bats, limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground); and, two, Hernandez has faced tougher opposing hitters than Buchholz has, as measured by opposing OPS. There's also the fact that Buchholz plays in front of a superior defense. It's close, but I go with Hernandez.
25-percent NL Rookie of the Year: Shelby Miller, Cardinals
This one's not a difficult choice. The 22-year-old Miller this season has pitched to a 1.40 ERA (majors-leading 267 ERA+), 0.88 WHIP and 4.75 K/BB ratio. Consider him a heavy favorite to win the actual award, even versus the entire field.
25-percent AL Rookie of the Year: Conor Gillaspie, White Sox
Thus far, it's been a remarkably unremarkable crop of AL rookies, but the honor falls to Gillaspie. To the eyes and small-sample numbers, he's looked good at third base, and he's also authored a solid-enough OPS+ of 104 to date. Like I said, a remarkably unremarkable crop of AL rookies.
25-percent NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pirates
It remains to be seen whether Hurdle's Pirates will endure their now-customary late-season fade, but so far so good in Pittsburgh. If the season ended right now, then Hurdle and the Buccos would lay claim to the second NL wild-card berth. That's sufficient for these purposes.
Also worth mentioning: Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks; Mike Matheny, Cardinals
25-percent AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, Yankees
I was inclined to bury the Yankees even before they endured a patently ridiculous run of injuries. Yes, they were coming off a 95-win season and spot in the ALCS, but they were old, and they shed a lot of talent over the winter. Then the injuries happened -- lots and lots of injuries. Still and yet, Girardi's charges find themselves in first place and with the third-best record in all of baseball.
Also worth mentioning: John Farrell, Red Sox; Terry Francona, Indians; Ron Washington, Rangers